Time is on Your Side
It’s the height of the Cold War and a Stalin run Russia is beginning to believe that in order to compete with the United States, they’ll need more than just their standard missiles and atomic bombs. Luckily for them, a new element was just discovered on the nearby island of Katorga-12 that seems to have some unusual, and potentially useful, properties.
With exclusive rights to the only known source of Element 99 (E99), Russia begins experimentations that should help to solidify the country as the world’s only major superpower. Then in 1955, while trying to speed up the completion of the E99 project, there was a mysterious accident that caused Katorga-12, and the E99 project, to be completely abandoned. However, fifty-five years later, a U.S. Special Forces team is sent in to investigate an unusual radiation surge coming from the island.
Playing as a member of this team, Nathaniel Renko, you’re tasked with finding the source of the radiation, but missions such as these never seem to go entirely as planned. As you approach the island, a brilliant shockwave smashes into your helicopter, leaving you and the other survivors of the crash to deal with the odd occurrences that seem to be common nature on Katorga-12. What follows is an enjoyable first-person shooter (FPS) experience that will have you jumping back and forth between 1955 and the present in order to unravel the mysteries of Katorga-12, E99, and what has happened to the world since your unfortunate helicopter crash.
Starting out, there is a definite sense that you are incredibly underpowered and ill-equipped to handle what Katorga-12 is throwing at you. Making your way through a lengthy early portion of the game with only a weak pistol standing between you and several ghoulish experiments gone wrong certainly helps to hammer the feeling of helplessness home. Of course, as you continue, you’ll gain access to a host of stronger weapons, experimental firearms, and even a Time Manipulation Device (TMD) to help even the odds.
Your more conventional firearms will consist of a pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, and a sniper rifle. Each of these feels much like you’d expect and can also be upgraded in certain aspects of performance such as clip size, reload rate, and damage dealt using weapon technology found throughout the game. However, the real stars of your arsenal come from the experimental weapons you’ll find while trekking across the island. While you’ll get your hands on a massive chaingun that can quickly cut down waves of foes and a weapon that will shoot explosive spears into enemies, my favorite allows you to aim your shots even after they’ve been fired. The Seeker is essentially your standard single-fire rifle that shoots explosive tipped rounds. Once a round has been fired, you are given a behind-the-bullet view and are able to maneuver it using the analog stick, weaving it between obstacles and around bends until finding your desired target.
The variety of weapons you’ll have access to help to showcase another interesting aspect of this game, its gore. While a game such as this doesn’t need to have an over-the-top amount of mutilation or carnage, it can be entertaining from time to time. Shooting enemies will almost always result in a good amount of blood splatter, as well as some severed limbs or exploded heads, depending on your aim and weapon of choice. For instance, the explosive rounds from the Seeker will almost always blow limbs from your foes no matter where they land but shots from the pistol will be hard pressed to cause anything more than just death.
Further aiding you in your adventure is the TMD, an incredibly handy experimental device that does exactly as its name suggests, it manipulates time. The TMD isn’t used for rewinding time to undo a mistake or for slow motion bullet firing as you might expect, given the previous uses of time manipulation in video games. Instead, players will use the TMD in a variety of different manners such as to discover clues about the story, age or revitalize objects in the world, and to open portals between the past and the present. While the TMD certainly has its offensive uses too, being used to catch and hurl grenades thrown by enemies and to turn soldiers into hunger-crazed mutants, its most invaluable purpose seemed to be manipulating the environment to solve puzzles and to reveal clues.
Throughout the course of the game, you’ll find a large number of destroyed boxes, locked lockers, collapsed walkways, decrepit reel to reel recorders, and shattered staircases. Without the TMD, these things would either be worthless or impassible, but the TMD’s ability to revitalize them allows you to take advantage of their original states. Using the TMD in this fashion is quite necessary to make it through the game and will often give the observant player both extra health and weapon upgrade pickups as well as clearer glimpses into the mystery of what has transpired on the island.
This mixture of investigating the island, solving puzzles using the TMD, and gunning down hordes of soldiers and failed experiments is fairly well paced and almost always enjoyable. In fact, one of my few complaints with the single-player experience comes from the reel to reel recordings that you’ll find scattered throughout the game. While Singularity is usually quite good about pushing you forward through its fairly linear experience, whenever you find a voice recording, you are forced to stay close in order to hear its message. With so much of this game seemingly taking cues from BioShock, I find it hard to imagine why the player is unable to pick up these recordings and play them at their leisure. Clearly this is a minor gripe but it really does needlessly slow down the experience.
On top of the single-player campaign, Singularity also comes with an interesting, but fairly limited, multiplayer component. The multiplayer only has two modes and a handful of maps for each. One mode is your standard team deathmatch, with six soldiers squaring off against six creatures, while the other simply has these two teams attempting to either attack or defend beacons. Certainly, there is a severe lack of options to be had here but what makes the multiplayer interesting are all of the TMD and creature powers that add varying gameplay and strategies to the otherwise limited experience. For instance, one class of soldiers can teleport while another has the ability to heal themselves and others. This may not keep you around for hundreds of hours, but it is a nice, albeit small, addition to the very entertaining single-player campaign.
How can you go wrong with mixing a little bit of mystery in with a lot of shooting, unique weaponry, and time manipulation? While I’m not entirely sure, Singularity clearly avoided any major missteps that could have derailed its entertaining experience. The single-player campaign is great and the multiplayer component is a nice little addition, although you likely won’t feel compelled to spend a ton of time with it. Raven Software has made a fun game here, be sure to check it out if you have any interest in spending some time with an FPS over the summer.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
The world of Katorga-12 and its inhabitants looked good and are helped out by some nice damage and weather effects. 4.1 Control
Everything feels solid, with the only potential problems coming from having a fairly large list of abilities that require a wide variety of inputs to pull off. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The constant repetitive shouts of your Russian enemies will likely get on your nerves; otherwise, the music and voice acting are well done throughout the game. 4.2 Play Value
You’ll have a great time with the single-player campaign and the fairly limited, but entertaining, multiplayer component of Singularity is just icing on the cake. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.